A Personal Anthology of 'Thin Places'Blog at http://www.blog.culturalecology.info
summer storm.jpg
'Summer Storm' Kathryn Mapes Turner

The American artist Kathryn Turner says she has the good fortune of being born into a fourth generation ranching family in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Located within what is now Grand Teton National Park, this ranch enjoys one of the most direct views of the Teton mountain range. For her, the Greater Yellowstone Wilderness is a ‘thin place’, where the material world roots into the spiritual realm. In belonging to a place in this way, all of us would feel a rightness, which she calls an ‘at-homeness’, where they are knitted to an imaginative world.
She expresses this special mental condition as rootedness, that allows her to experience what the Buddhists refer to as 'mindfulness', and the contemplative Christians call 'recollection', and the Quakers call 'centering down’. In Buddhist teaching, “the thin places” are the most precarious parts of our existence

“….this experience is lived tactically where my nerve endings are bare against the land. As I take in the magnificence and scale of this landscape, I am moved beyond myself. I refer to the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem as my ‘thin place”.

She paints to encapsulate these feelings in a rectangular frame, as do all artists, who thereby provide us viewers with portals into our personal world of the imagination. The painting itself and the space before it becomes one of our thin place. For example, the abstract painter Marc Rothko said:
‘I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on, and the fact that a lot of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I communicate those basic human emotions…. The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their colour relationships, then you miss the point!’

Is art really a window into another world? According to Christopher Hicks this is part of a bigger question. Do people actually understand reality from their own sense of what it is or by what others (people, institutions, governments) say it is? Access to information, data, images and the speed at which they are available is unprecedented. And, even though much has been said about the impact of heightened exposure of humans to media, the impressions are often vacuous and incomplete. Can a person respond authentically and accurately to a media image or message if it is merely perceived and not understood? Beyond media and in a larger sense, is it possible to respond appropriately to a contemporary moral or ethical problem if one’s foundation of thought and values are compromised by messages that are shaped by the perceptions of others? In other words, we have to be educated to respond. Did the people who cried before Rothko's colour field paintings know why he painted them?

The following picture is the view from my window across a busy road to a small patch of woodland called 'The Wild Gardens'. It is part of a municipal park based on a small stream, which because it often floods here, has been left to its own devices as a wet habitat known as an alder carr. Although not on the scale of Kathryn Turner's Grand Teton Range, I face its wildness every morning with her spirit of at-homeness.


The Wild Gardens are just one of my personal thin places which I have brought together in this set of wiki pages.

Map of all Thin Places
(with pictures)